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Notifications and Subscriptions Are Bloat

25 May 2020

Notifications on your mobile device, computer, or other digital device are annoying. In the early days of innovative solutions to be notified of new things or messages, they were new, fresh, and seemingly cool. That was about ten years ago. Today I find notifications to be plain old bloat and even a mechanism to suck your bank account dry.

The annoyance factor for notifications is high for me, and I've long since disabled nearly all notifications on my stuff. It is easier to tell you what notifications I've decided to keep than it would be for me to tell you what I turned off.

What I've kept is the telephone part of my cell phone, text messages, and reminders. That's all. I have very few reminders set, so it's not annoying for me, though I still find the telephone and text messages an annoyance. Those are required annoyances for work and family reasons.

Everything else, every other app or program from email to social media (which I no longer do), is a bloated annoyance that I don't need. Emails are just messages not meant to be conveyed or responded to in real-time; therefore, I'll get to my email when I get to it. I don't wish to be bothered by incoming messages from it when if the message is important enough, the person can call or text me instead.

I was prompted to write this post after reading on MacRumors.com, a story about a former Apple intern who wrote an iOS program to be a front-end app for Reddit. The person released a new version of the app that now includes notifications. I skimmed the article and a few comments below it to get the gist of it. It seems as if the app has a subscription model to it as well, and if I understood it correctly, to have app notifications, one has to have a paid subscription.

This is the ultimate mechanism of what technology has brought us to, sucking money from our bank accounts. Is this particular example, Reddit is a discussion forum/social media outlet. I don't know what the use case would be for someone to justify paying a recurring subscription for an app to be notified of when someone upvotes or response to a comment or post of yours on the platform. That, to me, is a waste of money as well as an annoyance. Think about this, when you make a comment or a post on Reddit or any platform, after a few minutes, or a day, no one remembers or even cares about what it was. It's already forgotten and lost in the ether. And here you are paying money to someone for an app to let you know that someone responded to it.

This leads me to think of the broader problem with technology and how companies, especially the larger ones, are turning their products into services where you have to pay to use it forever. If you stop paying, you stop having access to using it. Everything is a subscription model anymore, and it's all bloat.

Apple is excellent at this philosophy of services. They have a closed source, proprietary system of products and software that, while sexy and sucks you in, is like Hotel California, where you can never leave. Then once you're in, with an iPhone, a Mac computer and a HomePod, you then need to subscribe to Apple Music. Then you need to subscribe to iCloud storage to store a bunch of your stuff and sync your settings across devices.

This is how they've become a trillion-dollar corporation. They've sucked people in with overly expensive products and then get you to pay for their services to fully use those products. That giant sucking sound you hear (credit to Ross Perot) is the money leaving your bank account and making its way into Apple's bank account.

I used to be in the Apple RDF (reality distortion field), but I was one of the few who managed to escape. I'm still able to do all of the things I did in the Apple ecosystem, but at a far reduced cost to my bank account. I can still send text messages, email, make phone calls, listen to music, and so much more. I do it all very different now and am doing it all without subscriptions.

Doing as much as I can with FOSS (free open-source software) is rewarding and liberating. I'm not locked into Apple's proprietary system, where I cannot customize anything. I love to customize, or as they say in the Linux community, 'rice' my setups.

But back to notifications. I see people commenting on MacRumors that they're paying for this updated Reddit app so that they can have notifications, and I have to ask why? Is the value they're receiving from that cost to get annoyed by something worth it? For me, the answer is no.

Free yourself from the clutches of proprietary systems as much as you can. There isn't always a viable FOSS solution for everything, but there are a great many. I've found ways to do all I want to do in FOSS and use very few proprietary stuff these days.

Proprietary isn't always bad or evil, but it is a way to keep you locked into a system and suck your money away from you, or your data and PII (personally identifiable information).

With a little effort, desire, and will, one can save a lot of money in subscription costs to software and services. Rather than renting all of your music, movies, and games, try buying them and owning them outright. There is nothing to stop these companies from pulling the music and movies or apps you've paid for and leaving you with nothing. It's happened before, and it will happen again. At least if you own the CD or DVD, you have it, and the plug cannot be pulled you remotely.

Be less of a sheep following the shepherd (big corporations) and more like a cat, going your own way, doing your own thing.